Two state by-elections will be held in Victoria on Saturday, for the neighbouring western Victorian seats of South West Coast and Polwarth. This follows joint retirement announcements on August 31 by Denis Napthine, the former Premier, and Terry Mulder, the former Public Transport and Roads Minister. Both seats are safely conservative, to the extent that Labor is not fielding candidates. The seats will, however, be contested by the Nationals – a threat the Liberals are taking seriously enough to be running advertising on regional television. The Liberals are having preferences directed to them ahead of the Nationals by the Greens, the Australian Country Party and Animal Justice; the Democratic Labour Party is favouring the Nationals; and Australian Christians are having two bob each way, favouring the Liberals in South West Coast and the Nationals in Polwarth.

South West Coast

South West Coast is centred on the coastal towns of Portland and Warrnambool near the South Australian border, and also encompasses 5800 square kilometres of surrounding rural territory. It was created at the 2002 election, prior to which Portland and Warrnambool had been separate Liberal-held seats, respectively held by Denis Napthine since 1988 and John Vogels since 1999. The new electorate was bequeathed to Napthine, while Vogels moved to the upper house.

Candidates in ballot paper order:

Rodney Van De Hoef (Independent). A Warranambool businessman who is directing preferences to the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Roma Britnell (Liberal). The vice-president of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, Britnell won a September 20 preselection vote ahead of Donna Petrovich, a former Northern Victoria region MLC who abandoned her seat for a narrowly unsuccessful run in the federal seat of McEwen in 2013. Petrovich’s decision to run had been described by Denis Napthine as “inappropriate”, since she “has not much in common with the local area”. Others in the field were Denis Napthine’s 24-year old son, Tom Napthine, who works at MacKillop Family Services in Warrnambool; Anita Rank, a Glenelg Shire councillor; Jacinta Anderson, who ran a fashion boutique in Warrnambool before opening a Melbourne outlet; and Deborah Keiller, who runs an accountancy firm in Portland.

Roy Reekie (Independent). Reekie is a solicitor who ran for Labor in the Warrnambool electorate in 1999, and again in South West Coast in 2002 and 2006. He is directing preferences to the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Jim Doukas (Australian Country Party). Macedonian-born Doukas has been on Moyne Shire Council since 2002, and served as mayor from 2010 to 2013.

Michael Neoh (Nationals). The mayor of Warrnambool, and a councillor locally for 12 years, Neoh won Nationals endorsement after initially announcing his intention to run for Liberal preselection.

Pete Smith (Independent). Smith has variously worked for BlueScope Steel, AWB, Australia Post, the army and the navy.

Thomas Campbell (Greens). A 24-year-old education student at Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus, who also ran at the 2014 state election.

Swampy Marsh (Independent). Allan “Swampy” Marsh is a Purnim chicken farmer whose efforts to save Middle Island’s penguin population are the subject of the feature film Oddball.

Jennifer Gamble (Animal Justice).

Lillian Len (Australian Christians).

Michael McCluskey (Independent). McCluskey is a Warrnambool veterinarian who polled 1.6% as an independent candidate at the 2014 election.

Polwarth

Polwarth covers over 100 kilometres of the Great Ocean Road coast west of Melbourne, from Bells Beach and Anglesea through Lorne, Apollo Bay and Cape Otway to Peterborough, and extends inland through 12,500 square kilometres of rural territory to encompass Colac and Camperdown. Party support is finely balanced in the Great Ocean Road centres, but the rural interior keeps the seat safely conservative. The Liberals have held the seat since gaining it from the Country Party in 1949, and it has never been in Labor hands in an uninterrupted history going back to 1889.

Candidates in ballot paper order:

Joe Miles (Greens). A disability support worker from Apollo Bay.

Carmel Kavanagh (Democratic Labour Party). According to the party website, Kavanagh “operates a charity providing advocacy, housing and resettlement assistance for asylum seekers and refugees”.

Melinda Cass (Australian Country Party).

David O’Brien (Nationals). O’Brien held an upper house seat in Western Victoria region from 2010 and 2014, when he lost it to James Purcell of Vote 1 Local Jobs, and was previously a Supreme Court barrister.

Brendan Eckel (Independent).

Meredith Anne Doig (Australian Sex Party). Doig is a leading figure in secularist and voluntary euthanasia advocacy groups, and has been a board director with the Port of Melbourne Corporation and Bakers Delight. She is currently on the council of Federation University Australia, and a director of the Federation Training TAFE.

Richard Riordan (Liberal). Riordan is owner-operator of Colac Hire and Riordan LPG. The Warrnambool Standard reports he won a preselection vote on the first round from a field that included Adam Jenkins, president of United Dairyfarmers of Victoria; Stephen Hishon, a Lorne real estate agent and former Ballarat councillor; and Jennifer Cromarty, operator of a Geelong public relations firm.

Geoff Rogers (Australian Christians).

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